Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Running Q from Laura:

I got this question on Facebook yesterday:

...what do you do to make yourself keep running? I know that sounds weird, but you just got back into running, yeah? And I'm having those beginning issues where you have to make yourself keep going, and it becomes a chore not a relaxation thing anymore. I was doing really great after school got out, I ran everyday and even ran a race [...]. But then I stopped [...] and couldn't run for about a week or so. So now its like stage one alllll over again.

If there's one thing I'm an expert at this year, it's quitting my run regimen when life gets crazy, only to have to start it up again. This makes means I have plenty of experience in tricking myself into resuming the routine... It would seem that I don't quite have the long term commitment thing down, but so far I've had to kick my own butt back into gear multiple times. I count this as a success, as my initial goal when I started running was just to go longer than a week. I did, therefore, I'm a runner (at least in my own mind). I have a few thoughts.

Not so long ago, before I quit for a while and before having to convince myself I'm a runner again.
Before I give you those thoughts, here are some of my previous posts on the topic:

My first day running
Why I feel like PE screwed me up and I had to re-learn how to run
What if you hate to run?

Okay, now that we've got those out of the way, here's basically what I told Laura... my top tricks for deluding myself into thinking I'm having a good time. And if I learned one thing from dance, it was that if you pretend you're having a good time for long enough, you will actually have a good time. Okay, if I learned two things, it's that plus the fact that if you smile while you're doing something that hurts (e.g. dancing, running), it isn't as bad as if you don't smile.


1) Look cute. I know this is ridiculous, but it works for me. Clean tennies make me run faster. Good, secure hair. Clothes that fit and breathe. A bit of makeup so I don't look like a frizzy-haired Q-tip. I'm not saying you need to pimp yourself out like those annoying girls at the gym, but I run better if I have on cute running clothes that fit well and my eyebrows are penciled. This goes back to my days of not being able to dance well unless I had makeup on... all that time in the mirror meant I just danced better if I had a little color. I hated that it was true, but once I shared it with Mrs. C, my dance teacher and she said "well you better just put some makeup on then... it seems to make you dance better." Sold. Same goes for my running--maybe not makeup, but putting some thought into running clothes that I like and that I'm not going to mess with for the entire run. Synthetic fabrics are essential. Cotton socks are the devil. (And it should go without saying that if you're not running in shoes that you were specifically fit for, you're not only making yourself miserable, you're probably doing some damage to your body. Good shoes are a must!)

2) Get some good music, for the love of Pete. I am completely 100% influenced by the music I'm listening to. I have very broad tastes in music but very specific things that I feel like coordinate with certain types of music. More leftover dancer habits, I think. I also need new music all the time. Sometimes I save new music and don't let myself listen to it until I'm running. I find when I listen harder it's easier to "lose time" on a run. The other day when I was on my 7 miler, I put my iPhone on shuffle (which is a gamble, I know) but the shuffle gods must have been smiling on me because it was the perfect blend of fast, slow, moderate, upbeat, mellow, etc. Every time I need a shift in music, the iPhone brought it. Sometimes I listen to Pandora while I run, too. My favorites for running are Motown, cheesy 90's pop, and rap, depending on the mood I'm in. It always helps if I can smile or do mental jazz hands when I'm running, and those three categories really cheer me up. I'm not kidding about the jazz hands, either. One of my best "tricks" for getting myself down the road is to pretend I'm dancing. I'm dancing in my head as I run.

3) Run slow. I always have a better time when I go out and consciously make myself slow down. I'm not a "I'll run until I get to the next stoplight/corner/block" kind of person because every time I do that, all I can think about is how I'm not there. I invariably stop and walk. But if I let myself go slow, I can keep going. What ends up happening is that I walk less and my overall time is better in the long run. I know people will think it's dumb, but I say ignore your pace. What will happen is that you'll like running more which means you'll go more, which means your time will improve over time anyway. Every single time I try to go out and get it done quickly, I hate it. Every time I say I'm not going to worry about how fast I am, I have a great run and I surprise myself with how fast it is. It's kind of the opposite of how you think it would be. I try really hard to think about feeling good where I am physically and in the moment and that means I am able to go for much longer than if I was just running hard the whole time. On my seven mile run last weekend, I was almost two minutes per mile faster than my short runs that week because I wasn't in a hurry and I was able to run at a (slow) comfortable pace. So slow down! You'll be glad.

4) Chapstick. A run without chapstick is like a day without chonies. Awkward and uncomfortable. (Not that I would know, honestly. As a total prude and constant wearer of undergarments, I'm guessing.) Just say yes to chapstick. (And undies.)

5) Enjoy nature. If you know you don't want to run that day, don't run the same route you always do and don't run someplace boring. For me, boring = repetitive looking neighborhoods and (as I learned on my half marathon) treeless levee roads. Blehhhhhhhh. If I know I'm really unmotivated, I'll run somewhere with lots of trees and water because I know I'll get distracted trying to look for bunnies/cats/birds/beavers/turtles/ducks. It makes the time go by so much faster. I've always liked to be outside, but sadly I did most of that when I was on vacation. Since I started running I realized that I actually live in a pretty nice area and there's a lot to see. I love the sun on my shoulders and I love a little breeze. The more I think about what's around me, the less I feel like crap. The treadmill is still really hard for me--I do it mostly when I don't have someone to watch the kids so I can go outside. I hate it almost the whole time, but it's better than not running. I try to open the windows and get the fan in my face to pretend I'm in nature.

There's nothing there that's (as E would say) "rocket surgery," but when I'm trying to get back into a routine, anything will help. I also know myself well enough to know I'm going to hate running for exactly two weeks every time I start again. After that two weeks, it's awesome. But it takes my lungs and legs a while to catch up to my enthusiasm. I know if I can get past that barrier, I will probably be able to hang in there longer. I'm always working from a schedule when I do well, and I've been happy with the classic, Hal Higdon. My run schedule right now is taped to the fridge under the title of "HOW TO BE AWESOME" scribbled in dark pencil. Do whatever it takes. If you (like me) like making an X on each day like a five year old, than do it. I like Higdon's website because there are so many options and I feel like I've been able to choose one that's right for my own life but still see results. I'm pretty easy on myself. If I need to walk, I walk. I try to stick pretty accurately to my mileage for the day, but I allow myself to do it at whatever pace I'm able to that day to get those miles done. You'll start to notice trends in your body as far as how you feel... for me I'm really starting to notice how what I eat affects my energy level.

And know this. Running is hard. It's not easy for me even when I like it. There are a lot of days where the thought of running makes me want to hide under a rock. I was honestly the same way with dance, and I loved it. But getting there is about 90% of the battle for me. I don't really seem to like to do most things, unless you're counting napping or sitting on the couch watching reality TV. So a lot of the struggle is before the run, for me. On those days I just try to go as early as possible so it's over and done and I can sit on the couch some more. Sometimes I get out there and I surprise myself with how good I feel... and I always feel great when I'm done. That is quite often what gets me out the door.


  1. I love your tips, especially 'run slow' because I always get down on myself if I have to walk.

  2. Heather: I'm so grateful to you for this post. I've been out of my running routine for a month now. I got swamped with work and had to give it up temporarily. I'm at the point now where I have to almost start all over again - as far as motivation goes. I broke my cycle. I'm no longer on a roll.

    Anyway. I pretty much echo all the sentiments articulated by your Facebook friend. This post put things into perspective.